Inflatable Bouncers and Trampolines
Inflatable bouncers and trampolines are popular sources of entertainment at children’s parties and parish festivals. Concerns about child safety, however, have prompted pediatricians to caution against their use.
The rate of injury from inflatable bouncers, such as bounce houses and moonwalks, has more than doubled between 2008 and 2010. This increase prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to issue guidelines in 2012. Almost 65,000 children under the age of 17 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bouncer-related injuries from 1990 to 2010. Children under the age of 5 accounted for nearly 36% of injured; 54% were between the ages of 6 and 12 years.
In addition, injuries exhibited a seasonal trend. Injuries seem to peak in June, and nearly 75% of injuries occur between April and October.
Fractures and strains or sprains were the most common types of injury. 18.5% of injuries were head and neck injuries. Falling was the most common mechanism of injury, with most falls occurring in or on the bouncer as opposed to falling out of the bouncer.
In addition, the presence of multiple children on a bouncer at the same time is a known injury risk factor for bouncers, similar to trampolines. An estimated 16.2% of injuries in this study involved another user. Many of these injuries were collisions, but more than one-third occurred when another person fell on the patient. Restricting multiple usage to similarly sized and aged children on bouncers has been recommended.
Setting up an Inflatable Bouncer
First, determine ahead of time where you will place the inflatable. You will need a relatively flat area at least 5 feet bigger all around than the size of the inflatable. Do not set up an inflatable on a slope. It is best to make sure you have enough room by measuring the area ahead of time.
Check for bushes or tree branches in the way and make sure there are no power lines or overhanging branches overhead. Clear the area of rocks, twigs, pinecones or other obstructions and check for fire ant hills, animal droppings or anything else that might be in the way.
You are expected to provide an electrical outlet. Be sure to test outdoor outlets to ensure they are operational. Use an outdoor extension cord no longer than 75 feet. Do not use multiple cords. Make sure the extension cord is not a tripping hazard. Also, make sure the cord cannot be inadvertently pulled from the outlet which would cause the unit to deflate. For events that aren’t near an electrical source, you may need a generator. Make sure you know how to operate it safely.
Always have the operator of the device set up the equipment. They are trained to secure the equipment and properly connect to the power source. The operator must cover all operating and safety procedures verbally, and should leave printed instructions. It is your responsibility to ask questions if you do not understand anything in particular.
Guidelines for Operating Inflatable Bouncers
- Be sure an adult is attending the unit at ALL TIMES, and ensure that the supervisor of the unit is aware of all of the rules and precautions.
- If possible, have someone on site who is trained in CPR and first aid.
- Keep children age three (3) and under out of the unit. Make sure use of the unit is age appropriate.
- Make sure all children are grouped according to SIZE.
- DO NOT exceed the maximum capacity at any time.
- Remove a child if you see he/she is getting tired. A sitting child is more at risk of getting jumped on by another child.
- If a bounce house collapses, be sure to remove all children immediately.
- Perform safety checks of the equipment frequently. Operators will show you how.
- Turn the unit off during inclement weather or high winds.
- Seek medical attention for ALL injuries IF they occur.
All trampolines are excluded and not covered under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Insurance program. We have included some useful information below for those who may use a trampoline at home or while their children attending a gym or gymnastics class.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that trampoline use at both home and in sports training programs has grown in popularity. In recent years, trampoline manufacturers have addressed safety concerns by adding features such as safety netting and padding. Studies on the efficacy of trampoline safety measures, however, show that such additions have had little if any effect on the rate of injuries. In fact, one study suggests that the safety measures may lull parents into a false sense of security.
Most trampoline injuries (75 percent) occur when multiple people are jumping on the mat. The smallest and youngest participants are usually at greater risk for significant injury, specifically children 5 years of age or younger. Forty-eight percent of injuries in this age group resulted in fractures or dislocations.
Common injuries in all age groups include sprains, strains and contusions. Falls from a trampoline accounted for 27 percent to 39 percent of all injuries, and can potentially be catastrophic. Many injuries have occurred even with adult supervision. The AAP also noted that failed attempts at somersaults and flips frequently cause cervical spine injuries, resulting in permanent and devastating consequences.
Another area of concern included reports of decreased quality of recreational trampoline equipment sold over the past several decades. According to the International Trampoline Industry Association, trampolines sold in 2004 had a life expectancy of 5 years, compared to 10 years in 1989. Warranty coverage has also decreased since 2004, but the warranty for the frame and mat is consistently found to be greater than for the padding and enclosure nets. This reflects the manufacturers’ expectation that the padding and enclosure net will need replacement during the lifetime of the trampoline.
In 2012, the AAP updated its guidelines and continues to advise against the use of trampolines for recreational use. However, recognizing that people will continue to purchase and use trampolines, the AAP issued the following guidelines.
AAP Guidelines for the Use of Trampolines
- Homeowners with a trampoline should verify that their insurance covers trampoline injury-related claims.
- Trampolines should be set at ground level whenever possible or on a level surface and in an area cleared of any surrounding hazards.
- Only one jumper at a time should be permitted on the trampoline.
- Somersaults and flips should not be attempted – they are among the most common causes of permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries.
- Check all equipment often for tears, defects and foreign objects.
- When damaged, protective padding, the net enclosure and any other parts should be repaired or replaced.
- Trampolines should be discarded if replacement parts are unavailable and the product is worn or damaged.
- Active supervision by adults familiar with the above recommendations should occur at all times. Supervising adults should be willing and able to enforce these guidelines. Mere presence of an adult is not sufficient.
Again, please note that NO trampolines are covered under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Insurance program. They are not to be used in any of our insured schools, parishes, or institutions, or on parish or institutional property.